THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to welcome Mahmoud Jibril, the Prime Minister of free Libya, and his delegation. It’s a great honour for us to host Mr Jibril, one of those bold people who have always believed democracy is possible for Libyans too. It’s a great honour both for Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and myself that France chose as early as March to place our trust in Prime Minister Jibril and the National Transitional Council. Today I’d like to say this trust was well placed and that, as with every time he’s been here and like all those who work with him – we’ve listened to them, we’ve talked – the Prime Minister has shown himself to be a brave man and a man of his word.
On this issue of Libya, it seems to me two false ideas have been dispelled. The first is that there are certain people in the world who don’t have the right to democracy – in the name of a concept of global stability – and we in Europe have also experienced periods when people thought democracy was necessary in Western Europe but less urgent in the East. The courage of the Libyan people, their tenacity, have shown the world that all peoples aspire to freedom and democracy.
Now the second false idea. The very good news about what’s happening is that East and West aren’t doomed to confront each other, that the people of Europe and the Arab people aren’t doomed to misunderstanding and incomprehension. France has chosen to stand alongside the Arab people, alongside the Arab street, when she calls for freedom and democracy.
Prime Minister, I’d also like to express my full appreciation to the French Foreign Minister, who fought with great skill one historic night at the Security Council to obtain the authorization, the international legitimacy for intervention.
And I’d like to say how happy France has been to work hand in hand with her British friends and partners, and particularly David Cameron, who in the past five months has been a loyal, courageous friend and partner who has fully shared our views.
I’d also like to mention the Emir of Qatar and our friends the United Arab Emirates, who played an essential role, because they showed that the coalition to help Libya wasn’t merely a Western coalition, that it was of all regions of the world, that we wanted to help Libya free herself from the chains that had been burdening her for 41 years.
And of course I wanted to tell all our coalition allies, particularly NATO, how happy we’ve been to stand alongside them, and let me take this opportunity to say that France’s reintegration into the main committees of NATO has in no way weakened her independence: quite the contrary, because France was of course at the forefront during the military operations.
Prime Minister, on behalf of the French people I’d also like to express to you our admiration for the inhabitants of Benghazi. When French planes were in the sky over Benghazi on that historic Saturday in March and prevented what Mr Gaddafi was promising: “rivers of blood” – rivers that never flowed – we saw the courage of Benghazi’s population. I can’t mention all the cities, but I’d also like to say that what Misrata’s inhabitants did was entirely admirable. And allow me to express to the French soldiers and their leaders our appreciation for the professionalism of their actions, the great control they showed.
Some of you asked us, “Isn’t five months too long?” Throughout that period, our concern was to leave as few – to use a very ugly word – collateral victims as possible, and to avoid any blunders, just as we chose to do in Côte d’Ivoire.
Obviously, in such complex situations people may want to do things hurriedly, but imagine the impact if a school, a market or Libyan civilians had been hit by French planes, French helicopters or NATO forces.
FUTURE OPERATIONS/PARIS CONFERENCE/RECONCILIATION
I wanted to finish by telling you two things. The first is that Minister Alain Juppé and I told Prime Minister Jibril we’re ready to continue the military operations in the framework of UNSCR 1973 for as long as our Libyan friends need it. In other words, as long as there are still a few pockets of resistance we’ll be at your disposal.
The second thing is that we decided, in full agreement with David Cameron, to convene a big international conference in Paris – on which Alain Juppé is working – to help the free Libya, the Libya of tomorrow, and to show clearly that we’re moving towards the future, from the period of military cooperation in the framework of the resolution to the period of civilian cooperation to build tomorrow’s Libya, which has very concrete needs. In particular, France will coordinate all our Libyan friends’ requests for very large prefabricated buildings, so the return to school in Libya can go ahead under good conditions, given the number of schools that have been destroyed – because Mr Gaddafi placed armed forces, mercenaries and weapons in hospitals and schools. Likewise, we’ll ensure doctors and French medical units can help treat the countless people wounded by all the snipers and mercenaries who have been in Libya for months.
This conference will be held in Paris on 1 September. Very broadly, we’ll invite all our allies, but we very clearly want to go beyond that, to show that the period of the Contact Group and the military coalition is drawing to a close and that this is the period of the future of the free Libya we must now support, and both Prime Minister Jibril and Chairman Abdul Jalil are of course invited; our Libyan friends are at the centre of this conference so that they can tell the world what they need.
Finally, as you can see, a dictator has gone in Côte d’Ivoire and an elected president is in place. In Libya it’s the NTC [National Transitional Council] team which is going to build the democratic Libya.
We’ve told the Prime Minister how committed we are to a message of reconciliation, of unity, how much we trust him to ensure there’s no settling of scores, because you don’t respond to violence with violence, you don’t combat dictatorship with the dictators’ methods, and I’m happy to see this is exactly where the Prime Minister’s commitment lies. All this will of course have consequences for Syria, because the Syrian people are seeing the Libyan people liberate themselves, and the Syrian people too have a right to be free.
No one situation resembles another, and it’s obviously not a question of conducting military interventions each time. There are international organizations and resolutions, but ultimately the Syrians also have a right to democracy and aren’t doomed to be repressed by a regime that doesn’t understand we’re living in a new century. (…)
We’ve made a strategic choice, as the Prime Minister said; that choice is that we’ll stand alongside the Arab street whenever the Arab street demands democracy and freedom. That’s very clear in our minds.
A new draft resolution on Syria is currently under discussion. Along with our American, British and German friends we’ve called for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. We’ve done everything possible to bring the Syrian regime back onto the side of respectability; they’ve chosen not to listen. The regime is doomed, because today, in the 21st century, everyone must understand that dictators won’t be able to count on international passivity. It’s not only up to France: she doesn’t have the means, she doesn’t have the will, to act alone. But there are now precedents: Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. It’s not a question of starting conflicts. But we won’t give in on these principles. The Syrian people have a right to freedom. And I’m also very happy to see the many statements from Arab leaders along the same lines. Solidarity in the East today lies with democracy and aspirations for freedom, and not merely stability. (…)
SOUTH AFRICA/LIBYAN ASSETS
Q. – On the diplomatic front, at the United Nations, there are certain reservations within the Security Council; I’m thinking in particular of the South Africans. How are you going to persuade them to release frozen Libyan assets?
THE PRESIDENT – That’s the whole purpose of the international conference we’re organizing, and it’s why we want the conference to go well beyond just the members of the Contact Group. As for Mr Zuma, you’re aware of my friendship for him, the trust I have in him.
We haven’t always had the same views, as you’ll also remember in the case of Côte d’Ivoire; but I have confidence in the statesmanship of Mr Zuma, who can see the situation and can see that today it’s the Libyan people who are demanding the departure of the dictator Gaddafi. And I know President Zuma’s history and I know the desire of President Zuma’s party to listen to peoples’ aspirations to free themselves from their chains. I have no doubt we’ll find a consensus.
(…) The money from Mr Gaddafi’s coffers must serve the Libyan people and not lie dormant in our countries’ banks. The money’s there, and our whole idea is precisely to release it very quickly so that, once the freedom fighters regain their full role in civilian life, their wages can be paid and they can have a future for themselves and their families. (…)./.